Introducing Responsible Innovation Labs

Today’s technology will have an outsized impact on the future of society. It can help solve our hardest problems or make them worse. Many--even most--companies want to do the right thing and improve life on this planet. But how? What are the best ideas and practices? That’s where RI Labs comes in.
Jon Zieger, Diede van Lamoen, and Hemant Taneja
December 6, 2021

Introducing RILabs

We started Responsible Innovation Labs to help technology founders and leaders shape a better industry for the benefit of society.

More than ever, the world needs -- and increasingly demands -- ambitious technologies that improve life on this planet while avoiding harmful unintended consequences. “Responsible innovation” is the way to build great, mission-driven companies that can deliver such beneficial technologies.

RI Labs is a non-profit, joined and supported by world-class leaders from all across the economy and tech industry as well as academia and philanthropy. We believe the path to a better tech industry is to develop and make available useful tools, standards and best practices for innovating responsibly and promoting accountability through transparency.   

We certainly aren’t the only organization working on how to build a better technology industry. In academia, government, media and industry, few topics are now getting more attention. But there remains a significant gap between talk and practice.

Why Now?

Today, the world is developing increasingly powerful technologies and making them available to huge numbers of people. These technologies can do enormous good. They can also do enormous harm.

Artificial intelligence is one important example. There is widespread concern, for instance, about AI automating away vast numbers of jobs. Now imagine when an affordable gene therapy is created that lets most people live decades longer. In combination, millions of people living longer with many fewer jobs becomes a recipe for mass instability. The decisions companies make about transformative technologies today -- like AI, social media, or blockchain-- will impact every aspect of our world tomorrow. As founders, investors, and industry leaders, we must be able to account for the intended and unintended consequences of what we build.

We have a collective responsibility to leave the world better than we found it. As an industry, we can no longer manage businesses solely for growth, important as that is. Instead, we must embrace the right constraints, transparency, and framework to engineer for growth and good. That is responsible innovation and it requires a shift in the way the innovation community approaches and values its work.

Building Standards for Responsible Innovation

That doesn’t mean we should pull back from innovation, quite the opposite. As noted, the world’s hardest problems demand grander innovations and ambitions. But both the risks and benefits of innovation are accelerating. So, our industry needs to build guardrails and guideposts to direct and channel innovation toward a more responsible future. 

Responsible innovation is an enormous undertaking. It cannot be accomplished by any one company, organization or government. It will require a movement.  Our mission is to help catalyze that movement by convening stakeholders, preparing and iterating on standards, and helping to implement the tools, methods, and web of incentives we’ll need to make this work.

If you believe, as we do, that a tech industry working in the interest of society is among the best means available to improve our world, we hope that you’ll reach out and join us. Whether you’re a founder, investor, policymaker, executive or employee in tech, we need you to help us propel this movement forward.

Jon, Diede, and Hemant